Time for action, co–op group says
By Kathryn Purcell
Plans for an agricultural cooperative in Morgan County continued Monday as discussion group members Jeanne Dufort and Russell Johnston stepped forward to take the reins of coordination of the group from county Senior Planner Allison Moon.
“On my end, the discussion coming from this group is going straight to the comprehensive plan,” Moon said. “Hopefully this group will work concurrently with what the county’s doing.”
Urging the group to begin the decision-making process, Dufort began by asking that the group begin planning a timeline.
“It’s time for us to quit being a discussion group,” Dufort said. “We need to work with a specific time, a specific goal in mind.”
Within 30 to 60 days, Dufort suggested the group establish exactly what information needed to be gathered as part of a feasibility study.
And, four, five or six months down the road, the study should help to decide whether the co-op will work or not.
As of the last meeting, members broke into smaller groups, based on what exactly comes from their farms.
Mary McCauley, who represented the fund-raising committee, said that the group met and decided that they were ready to look for money, but first needed the feasibility study.
“People give money to good ideas and people they know who ask them for money,” McCauley said. “We just need this group to say what they want to do and we’ll work on it.”
Some produce farmers, and those locally involved with produce, expressed concerns about their involvement in the co-op.
“We considered it best if the produce group steps back from this table,” Jim Markley said. “Production needs to be improved.”
Continuing this discussion, Johnston brought up the idea of establishing a clearinghouse of potential agricultural land in the county. Johnston explained that space could be provided on county residents’ tax bills where they can write in whether they have any extra land that they would allow to be cultivated; a local farmer, a recent college graduate with a degree in the agricultural field, for example, who may not have a family farm, could then come in and work that land, thereby contributing to the co-op.
Further, the group spoke of a need to bring in citizens that had small plots of land – five, 10, 25 acres – and wanted to cultivate that land, but didn’t know how to do so.
“Like Mike here – Mike’s got 25 acres and he doesn’t know what to do with it,” Markley said. “There’s a lot of people like him. We got to get them and we got to get them together.”
“What this group could become, in part, is a facilitator,” Dufort said.
The group also discussed the need for a distinctly Morgan County brand, as well as a possible agricultural equipment sharing program.
Several members agreed to take the next month to hash out what information was needed in a feasibility study, and is planning on composing a ‘Request for Proposal’ (RFP). They will bring a draft of the RFP to the co-op discussion group meeting in October.